According to the Mayo Clinic, 15-20% of people experience tinnitus at some point in their lives. However, it’s more common in older adults. Even though tinnitus in itself is not much of a problem, it could signify the presence of a concerning underlying hearing issue.

Therefore, in many cases, once the audiologist manages the underlying hearing condition, the person no longer experiences ringing, roaring, or buzzing sounds when there’s none. This article delves into the common causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Common causes of tinnitus

For several people, tinnitus is brought on by hearing loss. However, before you read further on the different causes, it’s beneficial to know what tinnitus is. Naturally, the human inner ear contains delicate minuscule hairs which react to sound waves.

Their movement activates electrical signals from the cochlea to the brain; that’s how you interpret sound. Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan, especially when these tiny hairs get broken or distorted.

Under these circumstances, the broken inner ear hairs can mistakenly perceive sounds when there’s none. As these leaked electrical impulses reach the brain, the person then experiences sounds like buzzing, ringing and roaring.

Ear infections and head injuries

An ear canal blockage can cause tinnitus. This ear infection comes about when there’s an accumulation of dirt, earwax or fluid. In some cases, it may be the presence of foreign material. An infection of this sort puts pressure on the tiny hairs and can lead to tinnitus.

In other instances, a severe head or neck injury can cause it, as the head and neck are critical parts of the body containing several auditory nerves. Therefore, an impact can lead to people experiencing tinnitus.

Some medications

Usually, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a group of prescription drugs that can cause tinnitus. Moreover, some antidepressants and cancer drugs are notable factors. Antimalarial drugs and certain diuretics also play a role in causing the perception of sounds in the ear when there’s none. Fortunately, in many cases, when people stop taking these drugs or reduce the dosages, the tinnitus issue disappears altogether.

Risk factors

Consistent exposure to loud sounds is a common risk factor among people who experience tinnitus. More so, long periods of listening to high-volume music through headphones or earpieces is a risk factor. Additionally, age is another risk factor; as the body goes through the aging process, specific changes occur. For example, there tends to reduce the number of functioning nerve fibers in the ears during old age.

Furthermore, long periods of alcohol and tobacco use increase the risk of developing tinnitus. Finally, certain health conditions such as hypertension and vascular problems put people at a higher risk of experiencing tinnitus. More so, a long history of arthritis and obesity are contributing risk factors.

Prevention and treatment

It’s advisable to put a stop to lifestyles that lead to tinnitus. For example, avoid alcohol and tobacco consumption. Secondly, reduce your exposure to sound machines. If your occupation demands that you’re exposed to loud sounds regularly, you must consider using ear protection as much as possible.

Whenever possible, discuss with your physician to change certain medications you’re on for other health conditions. Thirdly, talk to your audiologist about hearing aids for tinnitus masking. Furthermore, tinnitus retraining therapy is a popular option for people. However, it would help if you first spoke with your audiologist to see how that can benefit you.